Ashtavakra comes to the rescue of Shivaji Museum

15th April, 2010

It was one of the hottest days in Pune. The scorching wind blew in our face.

And gray dust too: we had been drilling the whole day for water, near the peepul tree that His Holiness Sri Sri Ravi Shankar had planted two months earlier during the Bhoomi puja ceremony of the Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Museum of Indian History.

But in vain. The huge mechanized bit dug 20 feet, 50, 100. But it was just hard rock. Slowly, as the diesel engine of the drilling truck deafened us, the stone chips gave way to a grey dust that was penetrating everywhere: our eyes, nostrils, clothes and was even laying a thick film on our beautiful bougainvilleas which we thought would die. 150 feet, 250, 400, 405... At 7.30 pm, as darkness engulfed us, we reconciled ourselves that we will not find water and that the Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Museum of Indian History would have to be built elsewhere.

Next day, Ashtavakra came. He was a priest from a nearby mandir. A dwarf, with a misshapen body, stunted limbs, and a distorted face, that didn’t even allow him to speak clearly. He was also a water diviner and our last chance. Bare headed in the blistering sun, barefoot on the rocky, thorny earth, he took out a packet from a fold of his dhoti; closed his eyes and let some vhibuti ashes fly in the wind. And then, unhesitatingly, he walked towards the mouth of the well we had dug the day before. Out of the corner of his mouth, he said in Marathi:

- There is water here.
- Impossible, we all replied, not a drop of water came out yesterday and we drilled 405 feet.

Ashtavakra just smiled, picked up a stone and dropped it in the opening of the tube.

We all bent forward and heard the stone drop for a long time. It ricocheted on the walls of the PVC pipe laid by the workers, then bounced off noisily the narrower GI pipes. And after what seemed an eternity, we heard distinctly the splash of the stone hitting a deep source of water. We could not believe our ears and thought our tiredness had deluded us. So again Ashtavakra smilingly picked up a stone and dropped it. And again, after a long, long ricocheting fall we heard, the magic splash, its echo reverberated by 405 feet of narrow acoustic.

Like children, we all laughed and hugged each other. And all of us kept throwing stones in the well and laughed even harder when we heard the splatter of the stones hitting deep water 405 below our feet.

When we were saturated. We turned around to thank Ashtavakra.

But he had gone...

- Francois Gautier

Photos & Update: Museum of Indian History

16th March, 2010

Pune: The planting of bougainvilleas for the natural fencing has progressed well (50%). The plants looked healthy and there is a good diversity of colors. A mud road from the existing tar road has been carved to the top of our land, so that small load carriers can carry up water and material. On top, a strong cement platform has been erected on the rocks, which holds two 4000 litres black Sintex water tanks. By an ingenious drip irrigation system using gravity, every single bougainvillea is watered 24 hours with a maximum efficiency and minimum water wastage. We believe that the Neem trees all along the fences, which are stunted in spite of 15 years life, will also benefit from the water and take off.

Sri Sri blesses Indian History Museum

Above: Sri Sri planting the Peepul tree on the side of the museum on 12th January, 2010, Swami Vivekananda and Jijabai's birthdays. For the first time in the history of modern India, Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj will get the recognition he deserves and Indian History will be portrayed as it happened, not as it has been written by mostly British historians

13th January, 2010

Pune: The Bhoomi Puja (foundation stone laying ceremony) of the Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Museum of Indian History was performed on January 12th by His Holiness Sri Sri Ravi Shankar in Wagdaon, Pune. It was a most auspicious day as 12th is not only Swami Vivekananda’s, but also Jijabai, Shivaji’s mother’s birthdays.

We had erected a colourful pandal on top the land and laid down carpets and chairs. As Guruji arrived with a caravan of cars, the Pandits started chanting Vedic hymns. Guruji looked at the three concept panels which the architect had prepared, liked them and remarked that the roundness of the buildings would blend in the hilly terrain. He then proceeded to plan a Peepul, the tree of Knowledge, as indeed this is conceived not only as a museum of history, but also a place where students will come to browse in the libraries and scholars to fine-tune their researches.

Then Sri Sri began the puja. He made Namrita and Fran├žois Gautier trustees of FACT - India (a new trustee, Mrs Gayatri Chauhan, FACT - India’s representative in Maharashtra for many years, has just been added), sit next to him. It was a moment of strong emotions and one felt that at last Shivaji Maharaj would be properly honored in his own territory and that something momentous was starting. Guruji then performed a small puja on the old stone taken from one of Shivaji’s forts, which will go in the foundation.

As Guruji left for other commitments, the four pandits continued the puja and the Museum’s team, along with a few friends, sat quietly in concentration or meditation.

We now start fencing, tree planting, repair one of the abandoned small houses for a watchman and to store materials. As soon as the architect gives us the first plans, foundation will start, which should be sometimes beginning of March.

Sri Sri blesses Indian History Museum - Pictures

Above: Sri Sri looking at the concept panels

Above: Sri Sri performing Bhoomi Puja on the very spot where the museum is going to be erected

Above: Sri Sri blessing an ancient stone taken from one of Shivaji's abandoned forts. This stone will now be kept preciously and will be exhibited at the entrance of the museum

Above: Vedic Pandits complete with the Bhoomi Puja, along with FACT - India's team